Emmons Moraine Trail Via The Glacier Basin Trail

Monday, October 10, 2011

A fabulous Fall hike for all ages, and still easily accessible from the White River Campground—halfway up the Sunrise Road.

Mt. Rainier National Park and over 400 volunteers invested upwards of 18,000 hours rebuilding this trail, after it was ravaged in the 2006 flood.  Now the Emmons Moraine trail is a relatively easy 3-mile roundtrip hike to great views of the snout of the Emmons Glacier (the largest glacier in the lower 48 states) and Mt. Rainier. 

The road to the White River Campground will be open until October 30 this year (weather permitting).  Just park in the Day Parking area and start off of the Glacier Basin trail.  The first mile of the trail climbs gradually through beautiful forests, across bridges and past waterfalls.  When the trail was rebuilt, the decision was made to build it higher than the old trail—and volunteers and the Park did an incredible job.  As you climb, think about what it took to get past some of these boulders. 

About a mile in, you’ll come to a sign marking a junction with the Emmons Moraine Trail.  Turn left and cross the simple log bridge across the Inter Fork of the White River.  Here, you’ll really see the effects of the 2006 flood!  As you go around the next bend, keep an eye out for the gorgeous glacier melt ponds.  The incredible turquoise color is caused by suspended glacial silt, which also causes the opaque white color of the White River (which starts from the snout of the Emmons Glacier). 

Keep hiking towards Mt. Rainier and you’ll get incredible views of the mountain, as well as great views of the Emmons Glacier.  Underneath all that debris is tons of glacier ice, and the glacier itself rises 6 miles up the mountain’s flanks.  Note the ice caves underneath the glacier’s snout, where melting ice gives way to the White River.

Hike up as far as you like for closer views.  Once you reach the end of the maintained trail, you’ll be able to go about 1/4 mile further and then the trail will peter out.  At this point, just turn around and go back to the junction with the Glacier Basin Trail.

More aggressive hikers may choose to continue up to Glacier Basin Camp (5900’ elevation) which is another 2 miles on the Glacier Basin Trail.

All in all, a pretty wonderful choice!